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Boots on the ground

Students in action

Students who built and filled a library in Kenya finally get to celebrate.    

It started with a vision and partnership between Marquette’s Watumishi student organization and Sister Genovefa Maashao’s Shelter of Hope, a clinic run by the Sisters of St. Joseph serving orphans and HIV/AIDS victims in Voi.

Seeing the shelter’s work for the sick and vulnerable firsthand during a trip to Voi in the summer 2004 hooked Tim Kummer, Nurs ’07, Greg St. Arnold, Arts ’07, and Conor Sweeney, Arts ’07.

“It was really inspiring to see them work so tirelessly for the health of their community, and that made us want to chip in and help however we could, too,” St. Arnold says.

After returning to campus, the trio founded Watumishi (a Kiswahili word meaning “people of service”) and started fundraising for educational resources for the community with the help of dedicated Marquette employees, including the late Rev. Harold Bradley, S.J.

“At first we only envisioned a pretty modest resource drive, but the idea grew into a separate library building with meeting areas and Internet capability,” St. Arnold says.

From 200412, Watumishi members hosted chili cook-offs, Kick for Kenya soccer tournaments and conga purse sales, and met with potential donors as part of the fundraising efforts. Before post-election violence rocked Kenya in 2008, Watumishi members also made regular trips to Voi to reconnect with the sisters.

Now that the group’s vision is realized, Kummer feels incredibly humbled. “The work they do at the Shelter of Hope is nothing short of amazing, and I am honored that they allowed us to be part of their work,” he says. JB


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